Marine modelling

Marine modelling

Tim Colmer has been the Production Controller at GTL for twenty years, and one of his main interests outside work is making radio-controlled model boats. He has always liked boats, and nearly forty years ago at the age of 15 he bought a copy of a model boat magazine in which there was a free plan to make a radio controlled semi-scale model police launch, which sparked his interest.

He made the launch, Bobby, but used a small lead acid battery to power it, which subsequently leaked and ended up dissolving the boat as it was made of balsa wood! Undaunted, Tim made another one, Bobby ll, (pictured at the back of the photo) but this time used nickel cadmium batteries.

He also constructed a model power boat powered by a 'glow' engine, a small internal combustion engine. This went well, in fact too well as it was overpowered and rather uncontrollable. Tim decided that he preferred scale or semi-scale sized, more realistic boats.

At around this time the art department at Tim's school was having a major clear out and among the things which were destined for the skip was a 12 inch wide, 53 1/2 inch long wooden 'plug', which was actually for making a female mould for fibre glass boat hulls. Tim rescued this from the skip and took it home. Elsewhere in the art department were some basic drawings of the model that was meant to be made from the mould, but he wasn't allowed to take those and they were too large to copy, so he painstakingly traced them by overlaying tracing paper.

At this stage life took over and the plug sat in the attic at Tim's parents' house, and subsequently in the attics of his next two houses, for thirty years, as he had neither the time or the space to do anything with it. Then in 2010 he went to a model boat show and his enthusiasm was rekindled, slightly to the alarm of his wife who was a bit dubious about where they were going to display a finished nearly five foot long boat.

By this stage Tim had a good sized workshop in the garden so was able to begin work on turning the plug into the hull, using various tools inherited from his father, including a wood turning lathe, bandsaw and pillar drill. Obviously the plug was never intended to be a model so as well as needing extensive restoration, a good deal of modification was required in order to make it into a workable hull.

The plans showed that the boat was the Motor Trawler Thorina, launched in 1946 by Cooke, Welton and Gemmell of Beverley, Yorkshire, for Thornton Trawlers Ltd of Fleetwood, and registered at Hull (H318) in 1946. She was built as a typical large far water side-winder trawler to work off the coast of Iceland before the cod wars. In 1947 Thornton Trawlers went into liquidation and she was sold to N.V. Visscherijonderneming of Holland. In 1964 she was sold to Claridge Trawlers Ltd of Lowestoft and reregistered as St Georges (LT402). In 1980 she was chartered to Eon Productions at Pinewood Studios in London for the James Bond film 'For Your Eyes Only' in which she was disguised as a Maltese trawler and fictitiously mined and sunk in the Ionian Sea. On completion of the film she returned to fishing out of Lowestoft until 1984 when she took on water while fishing in heavy weather and was subsequently scrapped. It is rumoured that when the owner of Claridge Trawlers found out how much the model cost for the sinking scene in 'For Your Eyes Only' he said it would have been more economical to have sunk her for real!

Tim took three years on and off making Thorina, and did a lot of research, including spending ages freezeframing the Bond film to get information which wasn't on the drawings. Luckily, one of Tim's other hobbies is silversmithing and jewellery-making, and he was able to use his silversmithing tools for making boat parts and cutting and soldering. Thorina is powered by a 12 v motor with a two to one reduction gearbox to give scale speed. One compromise to scale is the working bow thruster which aids manoeuvrability in a heavy model - she weighs 20 kg. She has working lights and an engine sound module, and the accessories are either scratch built or purchased and modified. Tim is continually adding further details, and on his current list are lifebelts, galley chimneys, a battery box, deck lights, funnel logo, flags and more rigging. The rigging for the shrouds and ratlines was all made from fishing line and equipment and was extremely fiddly to make. He always adds crew as well, preferring to avoid the Marie Celeste look!

Thorina, which is pictured on our newsletter cover, has been featured in 'Marine Modelling Magazine' in 2015 and has also been displayed at several boat shows. One problem which occurred on her completion was where to store her. Tim's wife vetoed his suggestions of the sitting room or the dining room and Thorina eventually ended up in the study on a specially constructed shelf to support her weight.

While building Thorina, Tim joined a model boat club locally to enable him to sail her on a boating lake when she was complete. He experimented with control systems to get the right combination of speed controller and motor which resulted in several mid-lake stoppages requiring assistance from other boats to push Thorina back to shore - it's a deep lake so it's important never to sail alone unless you want to have an impromptu swim.

Recently Tim also completed a 1:20 scale Springer tug (pictured at the front of the photo) which is a class of vessel widely used on rivers in America for a multitude of different applications. It's not based on one particular example but all the features are taken from a variety of Springer tugs. The lights and radar operate and the crane slews and elevates. It has already been useful for rescuing other boats stuck on the boating lake, and so far it's sailed on four occasions and performed five rescues, including two boats which sailed into trees and one which stalled in the middle of the lake, so it's proved rather useful. Tim named it 'Daniel' after his son, who wasn't, unfortunately, very pleased to have a tug named after him and would have preferred something a bit faster and more glamorous!

Tim has recently bought a radio controlled model yacht for sailing in the boating lake. He enjoys making boats but sailing them under wind power calls for more skill than motorised models. Future projects include an all-wooden yacht from a kit, and a catamaran which will probably be constructed as an oceanic research or salvage vessel with an interchangeable superstructure so it can be used for laying courses for yacht races. The hull for this one is 1 1/2 feet by 2 1/2 feet so where this one will end up being displayed is still very much under discussion . . . . .

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